A Portrait of (the Artist as) a Young Man(‘s grief)

My mother was slowly killed, I think, … by years of trouble, and by my cynical frankness of conduct. When I looked on her face as she lay in her coffin — a face grey and wasted with cancer — I understood that I was looking on the face of a victim and I cursed the system which had made her a victim.

-James Joyce, 1904 aged 22, Letters II


浮生千山路 The thousand mountain roads of this fleeting life:







人間咫尺千山路。 x2

The thousand mountain roads of this fleeting life

The small stream at the deepest places during springtime, ten thousand jade willows give shade,
Forgetting the road whence I arrived on, placing my heart upon the full moon,
Whose house tonight a wanderer (prodigal son) still roams on his lonesome boat.

The moon above flowing away upon this long creek below, the trees on the misty slopes filling (reflected in) the clear glassy river,
The lone man stands wordless, abruptly turning his head back to look,
Fearing there is someone yet to return from the red dust (worldly cares/events/relationships).

Spring late so late, the sky-realm of the swallows,
Grass lush so lush, the young man grows old,
The waters leisurely so leisurely (or sadly), the time of flourishing has passed,
The thousand mountain roads of man and world may be measured in just inches and feet.

The small stream at the deepest places during springtime, ten thousand jade willows give shade,
Fogetting the road whence I arrived on, placing my heart upon the full moon,
Whose house tonight a wanderer (prodigal son) still roams on his lonesome boat.

Walking to where the waters are shallow (end), sitting down to watch the clouds rise,
A peaceful breeze cools and quietens, the world continues on,
Carefully counting the ten thousand threads of this fleeting life.

Spring late so late, the sky-realm of the swallows,
Grass lush so lush, the young man grows old,
The waters leisurely so leisurely (or sadly), the time of flourishing has passed,
The thousand mountain roads of man and world
may be measured in just inches and feet. x2

A Taiwanese song from the 1970’s.

The character in the video above (from a recent Taiwanese drama set in the 70s), as a son and father, poignantly portraying the torn emotions of piety and yearning for a homeland and parents he can never return to (the pain for many chinese diaspora, but especially for the Taiwanese, so near yet so far, severed by nation-war-politics). And said the following words to his child: “树欲静而风不止,子欲养而亲不待”.


Trees would like to be still and quiet,
Alas the winds never stop rushing at and assailing them.
Children would like to care for and wait upon their parents,
Alas they are no more.

[Origins of song lyrics below, soon.]

Thus Spake Zarathustra


“Ye look aloft when ye long for exaltation, and I look downward because I am exalted.”

“Who among you can at the same time laugh and be exalted?”

“He who climbeth on the highest mountains, laugheth at all tragic plays and tragic realities.”

–ZARATHUSTRA, I., “Reading and Writing”


Then, when it was about midnight, Zarathustra went his way over the ridge of the isle, that he might arrive early in the morning at the other coast; because there he meant to embark. For there was a good roadstead there, in which foreign ships also liked to anchor: those ships took many people with them, who wished to cross over from the Happy Isles. So when Zarathustra thus ascended the mountain, he thought on the way of his many solitary wanderings from youth onwards, and how many mountains and ridges and summits he had already climbed.

I am a wanderer and mountain-climber, said he to his heart, I love not the plains, and it seemeth I cannot long sit still.

And whatever may still overtake me as fate and experience–a wandering will be therein, and a mountain-climbing: in the end one experienceth only oneself.

The time is now past when accidents could befall me; and what COULD now fall to my lot which would not already be mine own!

It returneth only, it cometh home to me at last–mine own Self, and such of it as hath been long abroad, and scattered among things and accidents.

And one thing more do I know: I stand now before my last summit, and before that which hath been longest reserved for me. Ah, my hardest path must I ascend! Ah, I have begun my lonesomest wandering!

He, however, who is of my nature doth not avoid such an hour: the hour that saith unto him: Now only dost thou go the way to thy greatness! Summit and abyss–these are now comprised together!


To learn TO LOOK AWAY FROM oneself, is necessary in order to see MANY THINGS:–this hardiness is needed by every mountain-climber.

He, however, who is obtrusive with his eyes as a discerner, how can he ever see more of anything than its foreground!

But thou, O Zarathustra, wouldst view the ground of everything, and its background: thus must thou mount even above thyself–up, upwards, until thou hast even thy stars UNDER thee!

Yea! To look down upon myself, and even upon my stars: that only would I call my SUMMIT, that hath remained for me as my LAST summit!–

Thus spake Zarathustra to himself while ascending, comforting his heart with harsh maxims: for he was sore at heart as he had never been before. And when he had reached the top of the mountain-ridge, behold, there lay the other sea spread out before him: and he stood still and was long silent. The night, however, was cold at this height, and clear and starry.

I recognise my destiny, said he at last, sadly. Well! I am ready. Now hath my last lonesomeness begun.

Ah, this sombre, sad sea, below me! Ah, this sombre nocturnal vexation!
Ah, fate and sea! To you must I now GO DOWN!

Before my highest mountain do I stand, and before my longest wandering:
therefore must I first go deeper down than I ever ascended:

–Deeper down into pain than I ever ascended, even into its darkest flood! So willeth my fate. Well! I am ready.

Whence come the highest mountains? so did I once ask. Then did I learn that they come out of the sea.

That testimony is inscribed on their stones, and on the walls of their summits. Out of the deepest must the highest come to its height.–

Thus spake Zarathustra on the ridge of the mountain where it was cold:
when, however, he came into the vicinity of the sea, and at last stood alone amongst the cliffs, then had he become weary on his way, and eagerer than ever before.

Everything as yet sleepeth, said he; even the sea sleepeth. Drowsily and strangely doth its eye gaze upon me.

But it breatheth warmly–I feel it. And I feel also that it dreameth. It tosseth about dreamily on hard pillows.

Hark! Hark! How it groaneth with evil recollections! Or evil expectations?

Ah, I am sad along with thee, thou dusky monster, and angry with myself even for thy sake.

Ah, that my hand hath not strength enough! Gladly, indeed, would I free thee from evil dreams!–

And while Zarathustra thus spake, he laughed at himself with melancholy and bitterness. What! Zarathustra, said he, wilt thou even sing consolation to the sea?

Ah, thou amiable fool, Zarathustra, thou too-blindly confiding one! But thus hast thou ever been: ever hast thou approached confidently all that is terrible.

Every monster wouldst thou caress. A whiff of warm breath, a little soft tuft on its paw–: and immediately wert thou ready to love and lure it.

LOVE is the danger of the lonesomest one, love to anything, IF IT ONLY LIVE! Laughable, verily, is my folly and my modesty in love!–

Thus spake Zarathustra, and laughed thereby a second time. Then, however, he thought of his abandoned friends–and as if he had done them a wrong with his thoughts, he upbraided himself because of his thoughts. And forthwith it came to pass that the laugher wept–with anger and longing wept Zarathustra bitterly.

-Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra – A Book for All and None
“THIRD PART. XLV. The Wanderer.”


Tôkyô tawâ: Okan to boku to, tokidoki, oton
Tokyo tower: Mom & me, and sometimes, dad




Le Huitieme Jour – The Eighth Day





Nada Sou-sou 淚光閃閃

涙そうそう (淚光閃閃)
作詞 : 森山良子
作曲 : BEGIN


對著總是 在心中鼓勵著我的人

晴空翊爽也好 大雨滂沱也罷
當它甦醒時總讓我 淚光閃閃

悲傷落淚也好 歡喜雀躍也罷
我相信從你所在的地方 看得到我
也相信我們總有重逢的一天 而活著

晴空翊爽也好 大雨滂沱也罷
如此孤單 如此眷戀
對你的思念讓我 淚光閃閃
想見你一面 想見你一面
對你的思念讓我 淚光閃閃


Of Clashes and Renaissances, again and again…and a little sugar

That number one cheerleader for the ‘Asian Renaissance’ is at it again, waving and twirling his poms-poms like an over-enthusiastic high-schooler.


Let me begin with an extreme and provocative point to get the argument going: Francis Fukuyama’s famous essay “The End of History” may have done some serious brain damage to Western minds in the 1990s and beyond.

Mr. Fukuyama should not be blamed for this brain damage. He wrote a subtle, sophisticated and nuanced essay. However, few Western intellectuals read the essay in its entirety. Instead, the only message they took away were two phrases: namely “the end of history” equals “the triumph of the West.”

Western hubris was thick in the air then. I experienced it. For example, in 1991 I heard a senior Belgian official, speaking on behalf of Europe, tell a group of Asians, “The Cold War has ended. There are only two superpowers left: the United States and Europe.”

This hubris also explains how Western minds failed to foresee that instead of the triumph of the West, the 1990s would see the end of Western domination of world history (but not the end of the West) and the return of Asia.

-Kishore Mahbubani

Sigh…not that same old tune again, Kishore.
How many times can one flog that tired and actually dead horse — Fukuyama’s “The End of History” and Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations.

A quicker and definitely more satisfying way to end this tired debate may be for Fukuyama, Huntington (though now deceased) and Mahbubani to climb into an octagon ring and simply duke it out. And of course, with Amartya Sen running in halfway to jump in the melee, all the while proclaiming: “There is NO Asian Values!”

While the esteemed gentlemen engage themselves thus, here is another perspective:


[…] the importance of Etzioni’s contributions in identifying the schism as occurring within rather than between civilizations, as Samuel Huntington’s (1996) thesis would have us believe. Although significant for drawing attention to the return of nonmaterial factors to the political sphere, Huntington’s thesis is deeply flawed. It etched a line in the sand that subsequently hardened, and one can validly question the extent to which predictions have become self-fulfilling prophecies. There is now an unhealthy propensity to see all quarrels, big or small, as part of a larger clash of civilizations. Etzioni’s redrawing of the fault line allows for a more accurate assessment of friend and foe and for appropriate strategies to be adopted for each.

-L. Kuok

If I am not mistaken, Ms. Kuok may be a fellow schoolmate from a long time ago. A fair review of the regional dynamics, of unapologetic ‘illiberal moderates’ and some possible touchpoints for policy engagement, but nothing really groundbreaking in the paper actually. Still, an interesting work, especially the portion on Malaysia; considering how the author may be a third generation member of the Asia Sugar King’s clan and its fortunes.

Conjoint Measurement Part II: Iconic Rhetoric

-applying conjoint measurement to the ancient noble art of rhetoric; term used in the spirit of Robert Pirsig’s thesis (as opposed to its current-modern pejorative usage), and as also by Yuri Lotman.
-to show how overly-convoluted construction (ie poor/weak conjoint structures) of ‘shallow rhetoric’ reduces it to deservedly its current maligned status.
(to highlight with certain misapplications of structures from The Odyssey)

Conjoint Measurement Part I: Risk Arbitrage

-Prompted by a shared article by Taichiseal, led to recalling the theory of conjoint measurements
-Supposed to show an application of conjoint measurements to risk arb, on conditional events; used in handicapping trades in the specific case of the Spore casino/integrated resorts tender bidding in 2006:
positive example – the Marina Bay IR bid involving Las Vegas Sands, Capitaland/MGM, Keppel Land/Harrah’s CityDev/Sun;
not so positive trade – the following Sentosa IR bid

知音 — one who grasps your rhythm

After the previous posting of the classical chinese music of the 《十面埋伏》 / Ambush from All Sides from the 中国十大古曲, think I would be remiss not to mention one of the more celebrated pieces of music from that top ten list — the enduring symbol of classical chinese culture and art, the 《高山流水》 / High Mountains Flowing Water.

《高山流水》 / High Mountains Flowing Water

This version of the 《高山流水》 / High Mountains Flowing Water (performed on the guzheng/古筝, one of the many variations), dates from a popular score from the Ming-era.
And the music of the 《高山流水》 / High Mountains Flowing Water alludes to the master qin(琴) musician Bo-Ya(伯牙), a legendary figure of the Spring and Autumn Period mentioned in various historical records.

And it was the following sublime description in the Taoist classic, 列子(LieZi), which left Bo-Ya, his mountains and water (AND the idea of the perfect audience) deeply engrained within the psyche of chinese culture, art and thought:


Bo-Ya is talented at playing the qin (classical zither), Zhong-Ziqi is gifted at perceptive listening. When Bo-Ya plays with his heart set upon the high mountains, Zhong-Ziqi responds:”Wonderful! Such great heights, like Tai-shan!”. When Bo-Ya plays with his heart set upon flowing waters, Zhong-Ziqi exclaims:”Marvellous! The rolling of the waves, like a mighty river!”. Whatever Bo-Ya sets his will upon, Zhong-Ziqi is sure to perceive completely.
Once, when Bo-Ya was roaming the north face of Tai-shan, he met with a sudden monsoon, and took shelter beneath a rocky outcrop; his heart filling with melancholy, he began playing on his qin. Starting with the music of heavy sheets of torrential rain and bursting streams, next with the sounds of the breaking and tumbling rocks of an avalanche. With every tune played, Zhong-Ziqi was able to trace to the root its true essence. Bo-Ya put his qin down and sighed:”How very well you listen to music! Whatever you apprehend and imagine is exactly what I intended! What sound from my qin can escape your ear?”.

-from the LieZi/列子

The stories of Bo-Ya has him as a child prodigy who learnt his art with a famous qin master. But the young Bo-Ya was dissatisfied with his skills and felt that he was unable to truly enter into his music and portray every nuance and emotion there was to be expressed. His old master, knowing his intentions, brought him by boat to the immortal island of Penglai/蓬莱 (sort of the Chinese Atlantis); where Bo-Ya imbibed into his music the natural and harmonious landscapes of the fierce battling sea waves, the rolling and calling of the sea-birds, the rustling and sighing of the trees and leaves of the forests…and raised his art to the highest sublime level.

But the twist in Bo-Ya’s story is that, his one perfect audience who truly understood and appreciated his music, Zhong-Ziqi, was not a musician or artist or indeed, a sophisticate. Zhong-Ziqi was a simple and rustic lumberjack who chanced upon Bo-Ya playing his qin after a violent storm and who grasped within Bo-Ya’s music his expressions of nature experienced.

Alas, the best stories have bittersweet endings.
After celebrating his meeting with his one true appreciative listener, Bo-Ya arranged to meet with Zhong-Ziqi at the same place the folowing year. When the appointed time came, Bo-Ya arrived at the venue but waited in vain; discovering later that Zhong-Ziqi had died of an illness in the past year. Coming before Zhong-Ziqi’s grave, the devastated Bo-Ya knelt before his qin and started playing his 《高山流水》 / High Mountains Flowing Water…for the last time. At the end of the tune, the weeping Bo-Ya uttered:
“从此知音绝矣! (Henceforth, the one who understands my rhythm is no more!)”,
shattered his qin against the tombstone, and never played again.

In the end, the master practitioner/artist, rather than performing for multitudes, needs only that one true 知音 — the soulmate who grasps his intention-rhythm.


This ancient Chinese music is considered as one of the ten foremost pieces of classical music (中国十大古曲) whose exact origins are lost but have been major influences in Chinese culture through the centuries.

The 《十面埋伏》 or “Ambush from All Sides”, depicts the final titanic battle between 项羽/XiangYu of Chu and 刘邦/LiuPang of Han. The erstwhile victorious but now desperate 项羽/XiangYu fails to break the iron grip of the tightening manoeuvre employed by 刘邦/LiuPang (whose forces had been constantly on the backfoot in earlier engagements); and thus finally, the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.) was born.

Generations later, a Ming dynasty music historian was to describe the music of 《十面埋伏》 / Ambush from All Sides, as possessing such vivid battlefield images:


As the two armies engaged in combat, the clash resounds from heaven to earth, and the tiles on roofs crumbles into flying dust. Probing(listening) deeper still, there is the sound of golden drums, of swords and crossbows, of men and horses… … It causes the hearer to begin with excitement, to continue with fear, and to weep without end. It is truly moving.

Chinese pipa solo: 《十面埋伏》 Ambush from All Sides
[劉德海/Liu DeHai 1970]

(This 7min clip is worth going through. The tune gathers pace and gets faster and faster almost without letting up until the amazing breathless end. His hands simply becomes a blur.)

Another amazing slowhand:

Jimi Hendrix – Fire